In the second part of our 3-part series we will be speaking to two of the longest standing colleagues at Appello. Andy Ramsey, Senior Contracts Manager and Ian Nelson, Technical Manager, have been working at Appello for a combined 60 years and have seen first-hand the changes to the Technology Enabled Care (TEC) sector.
They explain the importance of call time improvement, why housing providers should embrace the digital change and what it was like to work with a pocket full of coins instead of a mobile phone!
- What’s the most important change you’ve seen in TEC sector over the years?
AR: I think the biggest change has been the change from analogue technology to digital.
IN: I agree, and also how companies are now using new solutions, for example Appello’s Smart Living Solutions (SLS), that are not provided by the historical market leaders.
- How has it benefitted Appello and the sector?
AR: As Appello have adapted to this digital change early on, we are leading the way in digital transformation. With main improvements to speed of call connection time and reduce in call queuing.
IN: Yes, as a company we are very independent and are able to offer unique services that not all others can provide. For example, Appello CareNet is the only fully digital TEC call handling platform in the UK.
- Do you have any stories that show what the industry was like when you started?
IN: It’s weird looking back, I was initially an engineer for Tunstall and now I still working alongside my engineer colleagues Carl (Appello CTO) and Mark (Appello Commercial Director) 30+ years later. With no mobile phones we had pockets full of coins to use at the nearest phone box where we would be provided work via job slips housed in our own pigeonholes. Strangely there are some systems that we worked on then that still have not been upgraded.
AR: When I started most sheltered accommodation had an onsite warden. Calls were only sent off to a control centre at weekends and 15 min calls times were considered acceptable. Most control centres had one operator on call and were run by the local authority.
- What’s the biggest change and expectations you’ve seen from customers?
AR: Call times need to be much quicker as most sites don’t have onsite staff. Customers’ expectations for the onsite equipment has massively increased, most systems were a red button and maybe a form of walkie talkie door entry and that was it.
IN: Definitely, and the reliance on equipment both on and offsite. There is a focus on remotely monitoring the vulnerable these days as historically this was done by onsite staff.
During lockdown Smart Living Services ability to video call has enabled residents to communicate with site staff even whilst being in isolation. To see a familiar face not just a voice.
- Why do you feel it is important that customers move to digital?
IN: Most of our monitored customers are still using analogue technology which was designed to work on legacy networks that have now been upgraded to digital. This mismatch is responsible for alarm call failures, so it is important to have an end to end digital solution.
- What advice would you give housing providers who are still worried about making the shift?
AR: I would suggest having a look around, but don’t be put off by the technology and worry that residents won’t be able to master it. They can surprise you.
- What’s the biggest benefit you have seen the move to digital bring to development/housing managers?
AR: During lockdown Smart Living Services ability to video call has enabled residents to communicate with site staff even whilst being in isolation. To see a familiar face not just a voice.
- If you were living in supported housing in the future what technology would you expect, and do you think we are a long way off delivering that?
IN: I expect there will be more robotics and automation in place, after all Starship robots are already delivering online purchases in some UK towns.
AR: I would expect voice activation. Pullcords and pendants are fine if you are in range, but If assistance is required and you aren’t in range, voice activation will enable calling out to summon help.
We are actually working on this and it will make a massive difference, not only for the resident but for the authority, no more lost pendants low batteries and test calls.
- What do you think will be the biggest influence in the TECS industry in 5 years?
AR: I think digital systems that use WIFI hotspots rather than cable networks. This will reduce installation cost and delivery time.
IN: As we naturally move to internet-based products it will provide many opportunities and innovative advancements via the IoT (internet of things).